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;'New England’s Own' raids target insurgents in the city

28 May 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Marines operating here are helping to rebuild the city and get the local citizens back on their feet, but they do not hesitate to kick in a door once in a while to search for insurgent activity.

Marines from B Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, recently conducted an intelligence-driven raid on a possible suicide-vehicle bomb making laboratory in the center of the city.

“We had intelligence information on a possible suicide-vehicle improvised explosive device workshop,” said Cpl. Stephen C. Zusman, team leader, from Lafayette, Calif.

The Marines prepared for the operation with hours of discussion and planning, gear checks and going over the steps of the mission both physically and mentally.  Each Marine could picture himself going through the steps of their mission even before they left the confines of their base.

An assault team was designated to hit the target while Marines both mounted in humvees and dismounted on the ground provided security for the assault.

“We knew what the building looked like from prior patrols in that same area,” said Lance Cpl. Sean P. Barry, an infantryman with the assault team. “The plan was to get in and get out.”

A sizeable team of heavily armed Marines loaded their humvees and seven-ton trucks at their firm base during the dark hours of the night.

Diesel engines rumbled through the quiet streets while the ready dismount teams studied their mission over one final time.

“When we get there, make sure you guys are watching your feet. We sure as hell don’t want to set off any booby traps that could be there,” 23-year-old Zusman told his Marines.

Within seconds of the truck's brakes halting the vehicle, Zusman’s team hit the ground running.

“We were able to push right up to the door as soon as we got to the position,” said Lance Cpl. Alex K. Alabachian, an infantryman from Braintree, Mass., assigned to the assault team.

“Lets go! Lets go!” rang out from the Marines running to the door of the garage. “Get that lock cut and let’s get in there,” Zusman ordered.

A Marine on the entry team immediately positioned his bolt cutters onto the chrome lock, grunting as he forced the handles together, snapping the lock into two pieces. The door of the single bay garage flew upwards as the Marines lit the room with their weapon mounted flashlights and rushed through the tall bay garage.

The first objective was to clear the room of any hostile personnel, then search for placed IEDs in order to allow an analysis team to enter the room, according to Barry, from Ellenville, N.Y.

“We were looking for anything that could be used as IED making material or possible insurgents,” 23-year-old Alabachian added.

Lights raced across every possible area in the parts-ridden garage, ensuring there was no threat to the Marines.

“All clear, Marines coming out,” Barry warned the team waiting outside.

Mental and physical notes were taken as the Marines swept the garage.  Just as fast as the Marines arrived on scene, they disappeared from the area and headed back to their forward operating base.

It was a dry hole.  They did not find anything significant or incriminating, but the mission was still a success. 

“Overall it was a successful operation,” Zusman explained. “We did not find anything major. We did however make a presence to show the insurgents that we are here to be pro-active in finding them. We have had problems with this area in the past and now the people there know that we are on top of it.”

A group of Marines returned to the raid location the following morning to find people working in the garage. They gave the shop money to reimburse them for the broken lock.

“It is important that we reimburse the people,” said Capt. Matt H. Bazarian, the company’s executive officer, 30, from Wilbraham, Mass.  “So that they understand that regardless of what we do, we are firm, but fair.”

B Company continues to conduct counter-insurgency operations in the city.